cloudy light, goldfinch, concert

11.27.20 ~ Sheep Farm
Groton, Connecticut

On Friday we returned to Sheep Farm, last visited early in April, so we still haven’t visited when the leaves are green. Maybe next summer on a low humidity day. Autumn colors were still pronounced on this lovely day.

glacial erratics in a golden and russet meadow
very cloudy day
leaf love
struggling to stay green
a burl
beech bark
beech leaf
waterfall from above
waterfall from below
right side of waterfall
left side of waterfall
beech with lichen
lichen on twig
?
loved the contrast between the green and the rusty oranges

Most of the birds we saw were too far away but I finally spotted this goldfinch, perhaps a juvenile or nonbreeding female. I was delighted even if he/she wasn’t brightly colored or willing to come out of the foliage.

American goldfinch
I see you!
loved this spot of yellow in the middle of the browns
telephoto shot of the yellow
?
contrast again between green and straw colors

And then, after such a wonderful day, that night I had a new experience, watching a livestreaming concert on my laptop. It was wonderful!

I’ve been a Mary Chapin Carpenter fan for years. My father introduced her music to me one night when he was watching a recorded performance she had on PBS. It must have been in the late 1980s. My father played the guitar and he and I shared a love of guitar-playing troubadours. He loved Woody Guthrie. I loved James Taylor. We both loved Mary Chapin Carpenter. I started buying Mary Chapin’s CDs and playing them while driving around town in our 1988 Dodge Caravan with our first CD player that came with the car.

my father and me

Then, one day in 2012, I found out that she was going to do a show on September 15 in a cabaret setting at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs, Connecticut. Right there in the town where I grew up! But everything was falling apart in our lives at the time. Tim had been hospitalized for several days in August with a cardiovascular event, my failing 97-year-old aunt was being moved from elderly housing into my father’s house, and my father was ill and wheelchair-bound. Even so, Tim and my brother-in-law John held down the fort so my sister Beverly and I could go see the concert together. Mary Chapin talked a lot between her songs about her life and her music and it felt very intimate. It was such an extraordinary evening to share with my sister, who is also a fan.

This concert was special, too, livestreaming with two hours of music, but no talking in between the songs. It must be strange singing without being able to see and get feedback from your audience. Mary Chapin’s voice has gotten deeper over the years but is still beautiful and expressive. I found myself comfy and cozy on the couch, content to be enjoying the unfolding of a new memory.

chickadee memories

image credit: pixabay

Inside their skulls, the sophistication of the neural capacity of black-capped chickadees increases in autumn. The part of the brain that stores spatial information gets larger and more complex, allowing the birds to remember the locations of the seeds and insects that they cache under bark and in clusters of lichen. The superior memory of the birds that I hear in the tips of the fir tree is a neuronal preparation for the hungry days of late autumn and winter. The seat of spatial memory in the brains of chickadees that live in these northern forests is particularly voluminous and densely wired. Natural selection has worked winter into the birds’ heads, molding the brains so that chickadees can survive even when food is scarce.

Chickadee memories also live within societal relationships. The birds are keen observers of their flockmates. If one bird should happen on a novel way of finding or processing food, others will learn from what they see. Once acquired, the memory no longer depends on the life of any individual. The memory passes through the generations, living in the social network.

~ David George Haskell
(The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors)

Chickadees were probably the first birds I became aware of when I was a little girl. They frequented my mother’s birdfeeder which was right outside our dining room window. (Our tiny Cape Cod style house didn’t have a breakfast room or eat-in kitchen.) I still remember eating my breakfast at the table in the winter and the cold blast of air that made me shiver when Mom opened the window to spread more seeds out onto the protected platform.

I remember playing out in the snowy winter woods with the chickadee fee-bee song playing in the background. And the well known chickadee-dee-dee alarm call. My father taught me to recognize their warning call, which I often hear out of the blue on our walks in the woods these days. My guess is we might be entering someone’s territory so we respectfully move on quickly.

10.25.15 ~ woodpecker
photo by Tim

For many winters now we’ve been hanging a suet feeder on our condo balcony to attract the woodpeckers I also love. Chickadees hang around and glean the seeds that fall out of the suet while the woodpeckers are feeding. Unfortunately starlings have figured out how to hang onto the suet feeder and they wreak havoc with their large numbers. Why can’t they come one or two at a time like the woodpeckers and chickadees? We also welcome a fair number of titmice, nuthatches and juncos.

Every winter our neighbor complains that the birds poop on his balcony. For this winter I had planned to not put out the suet feeder in the interest of being neighborly but, unbeknownst to me, my thoughtful husband bought a few months worth of suet cakes he found on sale. A woodpecker already came by the other day and was hanging onto the sliding glass door screen, inquiring within about the missing feeder, no doubt. And the chickadees have also been checking out the balcony, it seems to be much earlier than usual this year. I used to put the feeder out mid-October, after Columbus Day. But the fall colors have arrived two weeks early; perhaps the birds are ahead of schedule, too.

Because our neighbor goes out on his balcony to smoke a cigar and the unpleasant fumes come into our unit even when the windows are shut, we’ve mostly ignored his complaints about our bird feeding. Tit for tat. I have a funny feeling my resolve to not feed the birds this winter is crumbling. Watching them brings me so much joy in the winter! Maybe just one more winter, since we are in quarantine? I’m going around in circles weighing the pros and cons… I have to decide now!!!

Wish the bird feeding quandary was the worst of my worries. Connecticut College now has 24 students in quarantine, a cluster of 4 positive cases and their friends. One of the students was in my sister’s class a week ago. All her classes are outdoors and all her students are wearing masks, still, I worry about her safety. It’s a grim feeling, the virus keeps coming closer and closer…

And now our reckless president has tested positive for COVID-19.

under the marsh elder

meadow vole ~ image credit: Havahart®

sitting on the grass
under the marsh elder a
meadow vole scolds me

~ Barbara Rodgers
(By the Sea)

Last week my sister had an encounter with a cute little meadow vole. She’s not a photographer but she’s an excellent storyteller. When she told me the pithy tale I unexpectedly felt inspired to write a haiku.

I used to write about one a year but looking back on the “haiku” tag I discovered I haven’t written one in four years! Hmmmm, wonder what happened four years ago?

a secret garden

“A secret garden. Made by Barbara Lyn (sic) Chomiak. Seven year old.”

One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun — which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eyes.
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
(The Secret Garden)

I’m still poking around through my childhood papers and drawings. My mother was the true bookworm in our family. So many images coming back to me now, like my parents in the evening, my mother with her nose in the newspaper and my father watching television.

At bedtime, my mother read to us, even after we were old enough to read for ourselves. One of my favorite books was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. (Apparently I loved it so much I illustrated my own version of a secret garden.) And often my father would start playing the piano, gentle Bach lullabies sending us off to sleep.

Spring is in the air! Time to pick up the pace and plow through some more boxes. Onward!

geology rocks

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

Geology is not my thing, but, I was willing to tag along with my sister to visit relatives and rocks in West Virginia last week. The only thing I really know about these outcrop pictures is that the black seam is coal and that Beverly was impressed with the photographs my camera was able to capture. Perhaps she will use them in her classes.

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia ~ using Beverly to illustrate how massive this outcrop is

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

We had a lovely time visiting our aunt and our cousin and her husband on their farm. The first night we were there Beverly woke me up at 2 o’clock in the morning to see hundreds of lightning bugs sparkling in the nearby woods. It was magical.

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

We saw deer and heard about bear sightings. We took long walks and ate whole foods, both at a farm-to-table restaurant and from Kappy & Bruce’s kitchen. We watched movies with Aunt Em, who will be 90 in August. I will miss enjoying the margarita Aunt Em made for me each evening with dinner, and the early morning chats over our black coffees. 🙂

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

Beverly collected quite a few rocks for her collection and packed them up, cushioning them in her dirty laundry, to mail home to Connecticut. It was heartwarming to see her having such a good time. Bruce & Kappy paid close attention to the geology lessons they received as they were carting us around. We had such a wonderful time!

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

busy, busy, busy

5.25.18 ~ great egret at Eastern Point Beach

The fatigue from radiation has finally gone away, just in time! I’ve been neglecting my blog because we’ve had a lot of company and I’ve been over the moon cooking for them, having folks at my table again, and getting out and about with them.

Nate tells me someone has been trying to hack my blog, several times, and he’s spent hours investigating and remotely taking measures to protect it. I am so grateful he knows what he’s doing!

A new little brother or sister for Katherine will be arriving in Ireland near the end of October!!! Of course I will be spending a month or two over there to help out. Wouldn’t miss this big event for the world. 🙂

5.25.18 ~ Eastern Point Beach ~ Tim, Aunt Delorma and Allegra ~ when I suddenly noticed I was being watched while taking pictures of the great egret

I’ve taken a Photoshop course at the senior center so I’m looking forward to using my new skills. We’re still taking our Tai Chi class. Not sure I will ever master it. If I pay attention to my leg movements then my arm movements and breathing can’t seem to stay coordinated. And vice versa. But I get an “A” for effort and the instructor is very encouraging.

On Friday my sister and I are flying to West Virginia to visit our aunt and cousin. We’ve never been there before so it will be a new experience. I hope to bring back some good pictures. The last and only time Beverly and I have flown together was in 1974 when we flew home from Greece.

In September Tim & I will be driving to Kentucky for our niece’s wedding and a 3-day family reunion immediately afterwards. On our way home we plan to stop at a few places in western New York to do some family history research.

5.25.18 ~ great egret at Eastern Point Beach

So much to look forward to!

Nauset Beach

10.16.17 ~ cloud drama in the sky ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

In October my sister and I spent a couple of nights at the Nauset Knoll Motor Lodge in Orleans on Cape Cod. The big draw was that the motel had a short path to Nauset Beach, a ten mile stretch of seashore facing the open Atlantic. We could hear the waves from our motel room. Pure joy!

10.16.17 ~ eternity ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

Wildlife sightings: from the road we saw wild turkeys and a coyote; hopping across our path to the beach we saw a bunny; and at the beach we saw gulls of course, and a little piping plover running along the water’s edge, and a seal bobbing in the waves.

10.16.17 ~ parallax ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

One afternoon we spent two hours meandering on the beach. Nothing but sand, sea and sky as far as our eyes could see. Beverly, the geologist, was collecting stones, and I was taking pictures. And contemplating the universe, the oneness of all things.

10.16.17 ~ gull ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

Being awake. Resting in the happening of this moment, exactly as it is. Relaxing the need to understand or to make things different than they are. Opening the heart. Just this — right here, right now.
~ Joan Tollifson
(Resting in the Happening of this Moment)

10.16.17 ~ posing ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ infinity ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves — the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds — never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.
~ Pema Chödrön
(Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living)

10.16.17 ~ yawning (no sound) ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ dune grass ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ resting ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

Few places on the earth possess a nature so powerful and so unspoiled that it would remind anyone living in a concrete world that he once belonged to a pre-industrial civilization.
~ Liv Ullmann
(Changing)

10.16.17 ~ adolescent gull ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ a young gull ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

It was windy and chilly and we were bundled up well. I even wore my mittens when I was not taking pictures. But eventually it was time to go back to our room and get ready for dinner. So back up the path to the motel. Our window was the one on the right in the white section of the building. There are only 12 rooms. A quiet, beautiful, windswept place to stay.

10.16.17 ~ view of our room from the path leading to the beach ~ Nauset Knoll Motor Lodge, Orleans, Massachusetts

I hope I will come back here again one day…

10.16.17 ~ view from our room, a hill with a path through the brambles, the parking lot and the beach are between the lawn and the water ~ Nauset Knoll Motor Lodge, Orleans, Massachusetts

Upon the Waves of the World

Dennis’ 400 sea captains earned their living upon the waves of the world. Their journeys took them to faraway lands inhabited by exotic peoples. Years, sometimes a good part of a decade would go by before they returned home to see family and friends. Yet this is the life they chose. Perhaps the spray and smell and salt of the ocean was in their blood, calling them from the rooted land to journey upon the rising and falling waves of the sea.
~ Jack Sheedy
(Dennis Journal)

My grandmother loved telling me stories about her own grandfather and often reminded me that the sea was in my blood. I’m pretty sure it was this sea captain who took his second wife with him on a few of his voyages and bought her a “monkey” in some foreign land. Apparently the creature was a “holy terror” on the ship but she adored him.

My 2nd-great-grandfather, Capt. Martin Edward Thompson, firstborn son of Martin and Ann Isabella (Hughs) Thompson, was born 4 August 1850 in Dennis (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died in 1928. He married (as his first wife) 5 July 1874 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, Elisabeth Emma “Lizzie” Freeman, who was born 4 September 1851 in Harwich, and died there 4 October 1876, daughter of Warren and Elisabeth (Weekes) Freeman.

Martin was named after his father, a Norwegian immigrant, and followed in his footsteps, becoming a Master Mariner and captain of the schooner Nellie Lamphear. He also served on coasting vessels, tug boats, and was licensed to enter any port in the world. In 1910 he was elected port warden of Boston by the Boston Marine Society, the oldest association of sea captains in the world.

Elisabeth died of a “stoppage” when she was 25 years old and her baby son was only 18 months old. Her gravestone is inscribed:

Fled O forever from our view
A dear daughter, wife and mother, too:
She was a treasure lent, not given:
To be called away from Earth to Heaven.
Life to her looked bright and joyous
And her home was very dear:
To the summons of her Savior,
She gently yielded without fear.

1880 Captain Martin E. Thompson House, Dennis Port

The 1880 census indicates that, now a widower, Martin was living with his parents and his young son. Five years after Lizzie’s death, Martin married (as his second wife) her younger sister, Rosilla Ida “Rosie” Freeman, 23 February 1882 in Dennis. Rosie was born 6 March 1856 in Harwich, and died 18 March 1923, without children. In 1900, Martin and Rosilla were living as lodgers in the house of Nancy H. Merrill in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Beverly, Barbara and our cousin Matthew with Nellie’s carriage

Martin owned a beloved horse named Nellie (named after his schooner or vice versa?) who lived in the barn at 114 Depot St. in Dennis. He gave his granddaughter, my grandmother, her first three cars. According to my grandfather, Martin and his granddaughter Thommie worshiped each other. The first car was a Model T that had to have the carbon scraped every week. The next was a 2-door sedan Model T. Martin lies buried with his second wife, Rosilla, in Swan Lake Cemetery in Dennis, and Emma, his first wife, is buried in the same cemetery but in another lot with his parents and other members of his family.

Elisabeth & Martin were the parents of one son:

1. Capt. Martin Freeman Thompson (my great-grandfather), born 29 March 1875 in Harwich, died 13 July 1965 in Dennis. He married 1 February 1900 in Dennis, Amanda Eliza Hamblin, who was born there 2 August 1879 and died 6 July 1966 in Taunton (Bristol) Massachusetts, daughter of Capt. William Nelson and Anna Eliza (Baker) Hamblin. Martin & Amanda were the parents of one daughter.

In 1964 my grandparents inherited and moved into Martin’s house at 114 Depot Street, along with my great-grandparents, who they were caring for. Some of our happiest family memories were made there. My dear cousin Matthew bought the house in 2001 after our grandfather died. He renovated the place, keeping its historical integrity and was awarded a certificate of appreciation from the Dennis Historical Commission in 2005. Sadly, the house had to be sold in 2009.

blossoms and birdhouses

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ mountain laurel

So… there were other treasures waiting to be discovered while we were on our long hike Saturday. In 1907 the mountain laurel, a lovely native American shrub, was designated as the official state flower of Connecticut. They are just starting to blossom and we saw loads of them.

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ wild geranium, another native wildflower

I was raised by the melody
Of the whispering grove
And learned to love
Among the flowers.
~ Friedrich Hölderlin
(Odes & Elegies)

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ eastern blue-eyed grass, another native wildflower
6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ ferns and saplings filling the edge of a meadow

Now, the staff at the arboretum is keeping a meadow open for habitat for several kinds of animals and birds. They also erected several birdhouses and we did see a tree swallow looking out the “window.”

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree swallow and orbs

These shots were very hard to get because they were taken from so far away. I didn’t have a tripod to stabilize the camera and the zoom lens. I climbed a bank on the side of the trail, through a thicket of plants and saplings, and then leaned one arm on a tree to steady my grip, trying to avoid the gypsy moth caterpillars. (I wound up bringing at least one tick home – I hope I won’t find any more…) Even though I had to delete most of the shots I took it was a thrill to get home and find that these three came out!

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree swallow and orbs
6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree swallow and orbs

I love all the orbs I captured…

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ mosses and grasses

We were just thinking of turning around and retracing our steps when Beverly was beckoned by yet another tree growing through the rocks. So we left the path and carefully navigated our way through uneven terrain of rocks and bushes. I found a spot to take the picture. More orbs!

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree with orbs
6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ looking up the same majestic tree

After finding our way back to the trail I finally put away the camera, took a long drink of water, sprayed on some more bug repellent and enjoyed the long walk back, hands free.

May 2, 2020: When this post was first published I misidentified the bird as a baby bluebird, a mistake that was pointed out to me recently by much more knowledgeable friends. Consensus is that the brightly colored bird is an adult tree swallow! I have edited the text above, but the comments below reflect my original error. Sorry about that!